Archive for September, 2015

September 30, 2005 – Bad news from home

Buzz Lucky: Ryan, Christian, Phil, Mike

Buzz Lucky: Ryan, Christian, Phil, Mike

There is no worse way to start off your day than to get a phone call informing you that one of your friends has suddenly died. My mom called me telling me to call my friend Janet in Winnipeg as soon as possible. This was an unusual request, so I suspected that something wasn’t right.

I called Janet and she told me that Christian Schlosser had died suddenly during a rec volleyball game. During the game, Christian fell over suddenly and stopped breathing. Some of the other players were lifeguards and started CPR immediately. Even with the immediate attention, Christian didn’t make it. He was in his early 30s. It was a shocking event for everyone there, and completely unexpected.

I had met Christian through mutual friends in university. We weren’t close friends, but got along well and had spent many hours together playing dungeons & dragons. Christian was also one of the early members of our Thursday night chicken wings group.

I toyed with the idea of staying home from work, but in the end I decided that there was nothing I could do at home, and that working would keep my mind occupied. There wasn’t a lot I could have done if I was in Canada, but it’s still no fun being half way around the world when something terrible happens.

Good bye Christian, you will be missed by everyone who knew you.

(2015 Update) The picture above shows Christian singing and playing guitar with Buzz Lucky, a band that he formed with a few friends.

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September 29, 2005 – Free show

There was a very loud argument which almost turned into a fight outside my apartment building after work. This is a very rare thing to see in Japan, so naturally Palmer and I cracked a beer and watched from our balcony. Many of the neighbours were doing the same thing (although most weren’t drinking beer at the same time).

The highlight of the confrontation was when the loud drunk guy ran full speed into a fence for no apparent reason. Ouch! He got up and kept arguing, and eventually the show ended and everyone went home.

After that we had a few beers and watched Requiem for Dream, which is a really good, incredibly artistic, and very depressing look at addiction. No, I didn’t miss the irony of drinking beer while watching a movie about the dangers of addiction.

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September 25, 2005 – The world’s funniest burger


Another week, another farewell party. One of the teachers from Fuji school requested a transfer to a branch near Kyoto. As with other teacher farewells, we got a gang of teachers and students and went out in Fuji for some (many) drinks and some (lots) or karaoke. The party got particularly lively.

I learned that drunk people should really not attempt to use the karaoke machine remote. It’s very easy to type in the wrong number, and the “cancel song” button looks very similar to the “backspace” button. Canceling a song that someone is singing is bad form!

I also learned that the average karaoke room table is not a good place to stand, especially when it is covered in spilled beer. Fortunately nobody was hurt during the sudden fall to the floor, although some additional beer got spilled.

Another observation was that karaoke places do not have enough bathrooms when you really need one. Some of the teachers decided to take out their frustration by throwing around toilet paper rolls that were awkwardly stored outside the very slow bathroom. This is fun, but not a great way to behave in public.

Discussing politics while drunk is NEVER a good idea. It’s an especially bad idea with a group of people from different countries where words like “conservative” and “socialist” have different meanings. Fortunately karaoke was very loud, and it helped cover up the pointless political debate.

After cleaning up as much of our mess as possible, the teachers ended up at the nearby convenience store to get some snacks for the train ride home. I found a selection of heat and serve burgers in the baked goods section of the convenience store, which for some reason I found hilarious. When I say hilarious, I mean I literally felt that this burger, in a wrapper that said “burger” in both English and Japanese, was the funniest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t stop laughing.

As funny as I found the burger, my brain was still sober enough to realize that it probably wouldn’t be very good. After making an impassioned 5 minute sales pitch, I finally did convince another teacher to buy the burger. I expected it to be terrible, which would have been funny (for me). He told me it was one of the best burgers that he had ever eaten, and wouldn’t offer a bite so I could taste it. This turned out to be funny for him.

Like a previous trip to Fuji, we ended up taking the late train home. There are going to be a lot of sore people in the morning.

(2015 Update) I still don’t know why I found that burger to be so funny, and I never worked up the courage to eat an convenience store reheatable burger.

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September 24, 2005 – Second Japanniversary

Today marks my second Japanniversary. I marked the occasion by teaching English to some children who attempted (unsucessfully) to remove my tie while I was still wearing it. Good times!

(2015 Update) For those late to my blog, check out the my arrival in Japan in 2003 here


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September 22, 2005 – Wrong restaurant!

My favourite izakaya chain Ryoba just opened a new location closer to our apartment. My roommates Azeroth and Palmer texted me at work to let me know they were going to check it out in the evening. I invited Super Dave to come with me after work.

Super Dave and I walked for about 15 minutes from Numazu station to find the izakaya. We were in the middle of a conversation about something when we saw the Ryoba sign outside a building with several businesses. Distracted, we walked into the first door we came to. We didn’t see Azeroth or Palmer, but assumed they were running late and took a seat at the nearest table. The waiter came by and we both ordered beer.

Most Ryoba locations have a distinct style – tatami mat floors with low tables and cushions. Super Dave and I noticed that the establishment we were in featured booth seats and yakiniku grills in all of the tables. We both assumed that it was a variation on the theme, and continued talking and drinking our beer.

A few minutes later I got a text message from Azeroth asking where we were. I responded that we were in Ryoba. He said that they had been in Ryoba for about 10 minutes and hadn’t seen us yet. At about this time, the waiter came up with a yakiniku menu and asked if we were ready to order.

I asked the waiter in Japanese if we were in Ryoba. He said that no, Ryoba was next door.


I apologized and asked for the bill for the beer. The waiter laughed when I explained that we walked into the wrong restaurant because we can’t read Japanese well. (We both could read Japanese well enough, but were just not paying attention to the signs!)

As expected, we took a good amount of abuse from Palmer and Azeroth when we finally arrived at Ryoba. This is a valuable lesson in paying attention to what you are doing, especially when you are not using your first language!!

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September 18, 2005 – Aichi Expo

Aichi Expo group picture

Today I went to Aichi Expo with The Penpal and her parents. Expo is a world fair, with pavilions from 121 different countries, and also some large corporate pavilions as well.

The Penpal’s parents booked us a tour package that included bus transportation to and from Expo and a full day pass. The Expo grounds are 230km from Numazu, and we had to make a few stops along the way. That meant that the bus left from the north side of Numazu station at 3:55am.

Yes, 3:55am.

I woke up at 3:00, had a quick shower, and The Penpal and her family came by in a taxi to get us all to the station on time. Most people slept on the bus, but sleeping on the bus is nowhere near as restful as sleeping in a comfy, comfy bed. We got to Expo just after 8:00, and got a group picture after everyone got off the bus. The result is above, and the only two people smiling are The Penpal and I (back row, I am the only non Japanese person).

After the grumpiest group photo ever, we all rushed towards the entrance to wait for the gates to open. It was already hot, and the crowds were intense. Fortunately Japanese people are good with lines, so the massive crowd of people was orderly and polite.

We spent a full day at Expo, walking around in the heat, waiting in various lines to see different pavilions. We ended up going to Canada, USA, Mexico, Turkey, and a few others. The corporate pavilions had waiting times between 4-8 hours each. As much as we wanted to see the awesome robots that can play the trumpet, we had no interest in standing in line for that long to see just one display.

The Canadian pavilion featured interactive displays about the country, which The Penpal’s parents found interesting. As a rule, Japanese people know well about the US, but not nearly as much about Canada. One of my highlights was seeing a live performance by a band called Blou. They play Acadian party music, and managed to get the entire crowd up and dancing in 35 degree heat.

aichi expo band picture

Yes, I am rocking the classic Winnipeg Jets logo

There were a lot more things to see, but with the crowds and the heat, we really took it easy and limited ourselves. Also, you can only go to so many things when there is a 45 minute wait for the women’s washroom! We nicknamed the women’s washroom “toilet pavilion” because it had the same kind of line as many of the countries.

After a long, hot, crazy, crowded day, we all got back on the bus in the evening and got back to Numazu station before midnight. I am happy that I got to spend the day with The Penpal and her parents, but if I was going to do something like this again, I would break it into two days and stay in a hotel.

(2015 Update) I wanted to find out if Expo was really as busy as I remembered it. It turns out that the attendance on September 18, 2005 was 280,000 people. The official capacity was 170,000. No wonder the lines were so long!

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September 5, 2005 – Jetlag day

After all the crazy travel and events of the last few days, I am happy to spend a lazy jetlag day at home.

So lazy!


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September 4, 2005 – Get out of my room!

I woke up in the morning hungover and tired after traveling 9000km to attend Angie’s farewell party. My phone was buzzing – The Penpal had the day off and wanted to see me since I had been away for 2 weeks. I was looking forward to it, but the only problem was I was not alone in my room – Koalako was sleeping on my futon.

Don’t get the wrong idea friends, Koalako slept on the futon and I slept on my folding floor couch. Nothing happened except sleeping, and I assume some drunk snoring (likely from me).

Koalako was a good friend of Angie, and wanted to stay out at the farewell party as late as possible. However, the last train from Mishima to Atami is a lot earlier than the last train from Mishima to Numazu. Near the end of the party she realized that her only way home was a potentially very expensive taxi ride, so she asked if she could stay at my apartment. I agreed, not really thinking about how it would look if my girlfriend showed up to find my attractive female friend sleeping in my room.

I woke up Koalako and told her that she would have to be out before The Penpal showed up. While she attended to her makeup, I ran across the street to 7-11 to pickup some onigiris for breakfast and some sports drinks to aid with our hangovers. My beverage of choice for hangovers is Amino Supply! Yum!

I got Koalako out just before The Penpal showed up. The Penpal and I spent the afternoon together, hanging out and talking about my trip to Canada. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her while I was away. It was good to be back home in Japan!

(2015 Update) This was the first of a few times where I was Koalako’s emergency “I missed my train and need a place to crash” friend. Yes, The Penpal does know that Koalako crashed at my place on occasion.


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September 3, 2005 – Farewell party 9085km away

My coworker Angie had her farewell party tonight. She was finished teaching in Japan, and ready to return to Scotland. Everyone loved Angie; she was a lot of fun to work with and to spend time with outside the office. When I left Japan suddenly to visit my sick sister in Canada, I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it back in time for Angie’s farewell party. I am proud to report that despite starting my day off in Canada, I managed to make it to the party!

I started my day in Winnipeg at 5:30am on September 2 (7:30pm Japan time). My flight left Winnipeg at 7:00am (9:00pm Japan time) and arrived in Vancouver at 8:10am (just after midnight September 3 in Japan). After a few hours of waiting in Vancouver airport, I was back in the air and bound for Tokyo Narita airport.

My flight was smooth and uneventful, unlike the flight to Vancouver a few weeks ago. I landed at 3:30pm Japan time and proceeded to the lines for immigration and customs. My magical gaijin card allowed me to pass through the resident line, which is always much shorter than the foreigner line.

From Narita airport, I took the Narita express to Tokyo station, the shinkansen to Mishima, and Tokaido line to Numazu. With memories of pulling my giant suitcase fresh in my mind, I decided to treat myself to a taxi from the station to my apartment.

For those who are unfamiliar with Japan, addresses are really only meaningful to mail carriers. If you are going to take a taxi, be prepared to give landmark directions. I told my taxi driver to drive towards Seiyu, turn left at the lights, and my apartment was across from 7-11 in a yellow building. The taxi driver complimented me on my Japanese and tried to engage me in a conversation, which was a bit beyond my skill level. At least I got home quickly.

Once I got home, I started to get a second wind. I had a quick shower to wash off the now 24+ hours of travel, pounded back an energy drink, and then rode my bicycle to Numazu station. For the second time today I boarded Tokaido line, this time towards Mishima. From the station it was a short walk to the izakaya where Angie’s party was already in full swing.

I arrived at the party, 9085km from where I started my day, and received a hero’s welcome. Angie was particularly happy to see me, and Koalako had saved a seat and made sure that my drink order was attended to quickly.


Fun fact: I was wearing a new t-shirt that said “kiss me I’m loaded” across it. This both started a fun debate on whether loaded meant “drunk” or “rich”, and also got me several kisses, mostly from women.

Like most farewell parties, the second party was at a nearby karaoke room with more drinks. Karaoke lasted until the last train came around, and I got a big hug from Angie before we left. I was exhausted by the end of the evening, but happy that I was able to make it to the party. I am going to miss Angie!

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September 2, 2005 – Back to Japan

After spending two weeks in Canada to visit my sick sister, it was time to go back to Japan. Over the past few weeks, my sister’s condition had improved a lot. She was back at home and not needing daily supervision. I felt comfortable returning to Japan and not extending my ticket further.

My flight was first thing in the morning, so instead of driving in early from Portage la Prairie, my parents booked me in a hotel near the airport. I got up early and caught the airport shuttle from the hotel to start my long journey back to my Japan home. If everything works out, I might still be able to attend my coworker Angie’s farewell party in Mishima, 9085 km away.

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